THE LAW VERY LENIENT WITH YOUNG STREET ROWDIES
Graduates of the Saloons' Back Doors—How They Are Debauched by Young Men.
Nellie Stewart, Frances Whitfield (or Gray), Mollie Squires and Clara Zeck, the young women who indulged in several disgraceful street fights Monday night, and who were picked up early yesterday afternoon by Patrolmen Barclay and Gasselt, were all arraigned in the municipal court yesterday afternoon on charges of disorderly conduct. The girls defiantly pleaded guilty, and through the intercession of City Attorney Davis they were allowed to go. A plan was set on foot during the afternoon to rearrest them and take them before Justice McDevitt's court on state charges, but fortunately for the girls, it was not carried out.
One of the girls interested in the quarrel on Monday night emphatically denied a published statement that it was a mere accident. She said that there has been a long-standing grudge between Nellie Stewart and the Whitfield girl, who lives in Salem. The latter came to Portland a few days ago expressly to settle her quarrel. Monday night she collected a crowd of girls of the same stamp, and, after all of them had been served with drinks in different saloons about town till they became disgracefully drunk, they sent up to the Stewart girl's lodgings and dared her to come down. She refused to come at first, but finally, egged on by a couple of her friends, she came down, and the street brawls which followed resulted.
The exception of Nellie Stewart, none of the girls who participated in the ill-starred affair is more than 19 years old, and the youngest, Clara Squires, is barely 17. All of them are of respectable parentage, and are graduates of some of the local institutions of learning. To girls such as these, the back rooms of many of the self-styled "first-class" saloons are always open. They first go to such places in company with young men whom they admire because they are a little "sporty." After a few weeks, instead of going there with them, they go there to find them. Drinks are always served on request. As a rule, bartenders do not question the ages of their female customers or refuse them any intoxicants for which they may ask. Some of the scenes which are enacted every night in some of these places are of such a nature that a recital of them would not be credited.
There are at present in Portland at least 20 young girls, all of them under 20 years of age, who two years ago were living at home and leading respectable lives, but who now run about the streets at night from one saloon to another, associating with men whose loose morals render them outcasts from decent society.
There are a dozen saloons scattered about the central portion of the city which are glad to receive girls in their rooms because of the following they attract, and because men always spend more money when drinking with women than they do when drinking among themselves.
The extent of degradation which young girls can reach in little time by such associations is almost incredible. It is, however, very well evidenced by the language was that was used during the squabble Monday night. No North End saloon bummers or thugs in any drunken brawl could revile each other more foully or pour forth a grosser stream of filthy epithets than those that came in torrents from the lips of half a dozen frail young girls, none of whom was old enough or wise enough to be away from her mother. When the Squires girl was arrested by Patrolman Barclay, yesterday morning, she assumed an air of insolence and answered him in a manner which would have brought the blush to the cheek of a hardened woman of the town.
Several of the girls who were concerned in the fight promised to leave town last night, but it is hardly likely that any of them will keep their promises.
Oregonian. March 17, 1897.
[I love the sensational and breathy writing of this article ("no North End saloon bummers or thugs in any drunken brawl could revile each other more foully or pour forth a grosser stream of filthy epithets than those that came in torrents from the lips of half a dozen frail young girls"), but this piece see-saws between addressing a real social ailment (teenage drunkenness, and possibly, or probably, worse, subsidized by local saloons) and an early form of patriarchal finger-wagging at middle-class young women not staying locked up at home all the time. Indeed, young girls running " about the streets at night.. with men whose loose morals render them outcasts from decent society" sounds like a 1,001 b-movie cautionary tales from the 1950s (and beyond). Not to be dismissive – the Oregonian's crusade against the saloons and drunkenness is remarkably consistent, and the mention that "the scenes which are enacted every night in some of these places are of such a nature that a recital of them would not be credited" sounds rather terrifying given their participants (the barely 17 Clara Squires and some men in the back-room of saloon).]